You, Too, Can Buy a Congressman!

Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke introduced a rider to the House budget bill blocking a rule that would have cost fossil-fuel companies millions - after receiving at least $43,000 from those companies in campaign contributions.Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke introduced a rider to the House budget bill blocking a rule that would have cost fossil-fuel companies millions – after receiving at least $43,000 from those companies in campaign contributions. (Photo: US Congress)Ever wonder what the best investment you can make is?

I’m not in the business of giving financial advice – but I wanted to share with you this secret that every billionaire and large corporation in this country knows.

The best investment you can make isn’t gold or some revolutionary technology.

The best investment you can make is to buy a politician!

Investing in a politician can yield more returns than any stock or other commodity ever could.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

Take the case of what Montana’s fossil-fuel companies invested in Representative Ryan Zinke.

If the Obama administration closes a massive tax loophole that allows the companies to rip off the state, Montana’s coal companies would be looking at a $19 million hit to their bottom lines.

You see, for years, Montana’s coal producers have had to pay royalties to the state of Montana for coal mined on federal land.

But Montana’s coal producers found a way get around paying the royalties for coal they took from public lands.

It’s been really easy so far.

Take Peabody Energy. All it had to do is create shell subsidiaries to buy Peabody’s coal at a lower-than-market rate.

The state would only collect royalties on Peabody selling coal to its own subsidiary basically at cost, so there’s no profit and no royalty payments.

Then the subsidiary would simply turn around and sell the coal again to an actual coal user, like China or a power plant, this time at the much higher and very profitable market rate.

A rule proposed by Obama’s Department of the Interior would change that so that Peabody and the other coal companies would have to pay their royalties based exclusively on sales made to an independent, third-party buyer. No more tax-free insider trading.

A report last month from Headwaters Economics showed that the proposed rule could make up to $19 million for the state of Montana every year.

But last week, Montana Representative at-large Ryan Zinke introduced a rider to the House budget bill that blocks the Obama administration’s new rule on royalties.

Which means Ryan Zinke is churning out big returns for his fossil-fuel company investors.

And what did it cost them, you may ask?

Well, according to www.opensecrets.org, oil, gas and coal companies donated at least $43,000 to Zincke’s campaign. That’s more than 10 percent of Ryan Zincke’s total contributions from Political Action Committees.

And what are the companies getting in return? They’re avoiding paying $19 million a year for taking that coal from you and me and the rest of the US, which owns the public lands.

Over the last two years, they’ve made $38 million on a $43,000 investment.

So Ryan Zincke’s investors are seeing a rate of return that’s over 86,000 percent.

That’s incredible! And it’s an investment tip you’re only going to learn about here.

Because the big TV networks do the same thing with their lobbyists, so they’re not going to talk about it!

So how do you get in on that kind of action?

Well, that’s the real problem. Not every politician is so cheap. And most Americans just don’t have the disposable income to invest in a politician every two years anyway.

Therefore, most Americans today can’t invest in buying politicians the same way as corporations and billionaires.

But we could harness the power of the stock market to fix that.

All we have to do is set up an exchange-traded fund for owning sellout politicians.

That way, the average American can invest in politicians and reap the same benefits as our country’s lobbyists.

It makes sense in the context of the Supreme Court’s ruling that buying politicians is the same thing as political speech and thus protected by the First Amendment.

We could set up the funds to be based on specific industries – things like fossil fuels, guns, agriculture and medicine – and invest both in those industries and in the politicians who can change laws to make the industries richer.

And when candidates declare that they’re running, they would choose which fund they’ll be exchanged on.

Instead of campaign contributions, voters would simply go on the market and invest in a particular candidate in a particular fund.

Different offices would be priced differently. Representatives would be penny stocks, and senators would be priced slightly higher. Senior senators would obviously trade for more than junior senators.

And once a piece of legislation starts generating profits for that fund, the profits can be distributed to the investors.

Another option would be take the politicians off the market and let the people invest in legislation directly, but trading would work basically the same way.

The richest Americans would still be able to invest more in the biggest ticket issues in either scenario, but at least normal Americans would also be able to invest and see their fair share of their politician’s profits.

So that’s one way to make the political market work for every American and not just the billionaires and corporate lobbyists.

But here’s a better idea: Let’s just take our democracy off the market altogether.

Because our politicians should be representatives, not investments.

Really – it’s time to repeal Citizens United and pass a Constitutional amendment saying that corporations aren’t people and buying politicians is bribery, not “free speech.”